When the Pastor pointed out a shorter sermon would accommodate for Communion, I skipped a breath. I hadn’t consistently gone to Church in almost a decade. I forgot about Communion. My knee started bouncing. My mind started talking.
“How do you that again? I know there is bread. I hope it’s the sweet bread. Do I say something? Do you eat the bread then the juice? Do you dip it? Maybe I’ll just skip it this time and watch.”
Then I thought about my Grandma visiting our Methodist church when I was a kid. She didn’t participate because Catholics don’t do Methodist Communion. She sat alone while everyone went to the front of the Church. The Church is no place to be alone. I decided to participate.
Living to die or dying to live?
I didn’t want to be alone, but I didn’t feel comfortable about participating. Communion is a strange tradition. How does this fit into my way of practicing Christianity? One of my challenges with popular narratives of Christianity is the emphasis on Jesus’s death. A lot of Christian interpretations revolve around death. From the crucifix as the primary symbol of the faith to Lent and Easter, death is a recurring theme.
While I think it’s important to be mindful of how Jesus died and the convictions he held until his final moments, isn’t it more important to recognize how he lived? My practice as a Christian isn’t determined by how I die. Christianity is guidance for living. I try to minimize the discussion of Jesus’s death when I’m reflecting on my practice.
Before the Communion, the Pastor shared a sermon highlighting our journey towards perfection. The path for this journey is defined by people we know. Our ability to live like Jesus is relative to the relationships we have with other people. We live on a spectrum of the best person we know to the worst person we know, and our position on that spectrum is constantly changing. Your responsibility as a Christian isn’t to necessarily be the best person you know. In fact, you know yourself so well that you would probably have a hard time looking past your most intimate flaws. Rather, your responsibility is to be constantly challenging yourself to move in the direction towards the best person you know.
If you illustrated the spectrum and listed all the people you know in order of the best person to worst person, Jesus would fit at the far end of the spectrum. He is outside the best person you know. Jesus is the ultimate destination. The Pastor reiterated that we strive to follow this direction by how we live. I thought the Pastor’s point supported my point. We become Jesus by how we live – not how we die.
Why practice Communion?
If you just listen to the instructions, Communion feels like a cannibalistic ritual. Here’s the body of Jesus. Here’s his blood. Now, eat it.
Am I the only person here who thinks that is weird?
I was still anxious as the sermon came to an end. The Pastor held up the basket of bread and explained the process for Communion. Then he asked us to bow our heads as he prayed.
And that’s when it occurred to me.
With my head down – listening to the Pastor pray – I realized the death of Jesus is a reminder that he was a human too. He died. All humans die. Communion is a reminder that he was made of flesh. He was made of blood. He was a man like me, and as a man, he lived a life of generosity and compassion. When we consume the bread and the wine, his life as a human becomes part of our lives as humans. The act of Communion is a vote of confidence that our humanity is the only vessel we need to experience God’s presence.
Jesus is characterized as the Son of God. This characterization can create an abstraction for practicing Christians. How can you relate to Jesus if you can’t comprehend being a divine descendant? There are moments when you can dismiss your own abilities in comparison to Jesus. If God was my “dad,” I could be a good person like Jesus, but I don’t have God’s DNA.
I am only human.
Maybe that’s the purpose of Communion. Jesus was the Son of God in the sense that we are all sons and daughters of God. We are all born from the consciousness we create. Our existence is a product of the collective existence of our ancestors. We are formed from the same atoms that shape the entire known universe. We are made of God too. We are like Jesus. We are humans made of the same God. When we take Communion, we remind ourselves that we can bring Jesus into our existence and live the life he lived. Jesus was only human too.
I raised my head from the prayer. I appreciated the reminder that Jesus was a dude like me. He went through the world. He lived among other people, and he led these people towards a model for meaningfully living. A model we can practice to fulfill our purpose and experience a full life.
I can be like Jesus, so I should be like Jesus.